Hunger strikes see rising use as protest in Egypt’s jails

Jihad Abaza
4 Min Read
Mohamed Soltan, the imprisoned son of prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader Salah Soltan, was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Qasr El-Aini Hospital on Tuesday night. (AFP PHOTO / STR)
Detained American-Egyptian activist, Mohamed Sultan sits behind the bars of the accused dock during his trial on June 23, 2014 in the Egyptian capital Cairo. Sultan, who has been detained since August 2013 for participating in the sit-in at Rabaa-Al Adaweya Square supporting Morsi, is on hunger strike for 147 days.   (AFP PHOTO / STR)
Detained American-Egyptian activist, Mohamed Sultan sits behind the bars of the accused dock during his trial on June 23, 2014 in the Egyptian capital Cairo. 

By Jihad Abaza

Hunger striking activist and fixer Mohamed Soltan refused to receive visits on 28 June in protest the Torah Prison administration’s refusal to move him to the intensive care of an outside hospital as ordered by the court on 23 June, according to his family.

Soltan has abstained from food for over 150 days.

His father, Salah Soltan, said that his son had lost consciousness five times since last Thursday and twice during a visit from the American consulate.

Mohamed was arrested last August when security forces raided his home while searching for his father, a leading Islamist figure.

Other detainees, including Al-Azhar students and 6 April members, have also recently announced their intentions to engage in hunger strikes.

Karima El-Serify, the daughter of Ayman El-Serify, a close affiliate of former president Mohamed Morsi, and six of her Al-Azhar colleagues currently detained at Al-Qanater Prison, began a hunger strike two weeks ago. Their decision came after prison guards ordered their cellmates to beat them and steal their belongings, said El-Serify’s mother at a solidarity conference on 20 June.

The solidarity conference was held at the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, and was hosted by Aida Seif Al-Dawla, a human rights activist and co-founder of the Nazra Centre For Feminist Studies.

“Karima is strong and she keeps her colleagues’ spirits high,” Karima’s mother stated at the conference. “I am not surprised she decided to go on a hunger strike. If another week goes by and she’s still on strike, I will join her.”

El-Serify was arrested from her home last April, an arrest that her mother said was made to put pressure on her father.

Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Maher, both prominent founding members of the 6 April Movement, are now entering their third week of hunger strikes in protest to the mistreatment they say they have been receiving inside prison. Both are currently held in solitary confinement and charged with breaking the Protest Law.

“They have not been allowed books, they have not been allowed to write letters, and they are not even allowed fans in this hot weather,” said Adel’s father.

The prosecutor general’s office also denied that Adel was on hunger strike.

A statement recently released by the 6 April movement called for the release of all political prisoners and demanded that medical attention be given to Adel during his hunger strike.

“Treatment has been much worse since Sisi was announced president. We are going into a period darker than the previous one, without human rights and without any freedoms. They don’t deserve the sentences they got,” Adel’s father added.

Others on hunger strike include Ibrahim Al Yamany, a fourth year medical student who has gone without food for over 100 days. His mother, Nefeesa, expressed concern about being unable to confirm her son’s  hunger strike, as the prosecutor general’s office constantly denies it.

“Prison administrators and doctors often lie in the health reports,” she said at the conference.

Many hunger strikers are located at the high-security Scorpion prison, where family members must receive permits before visiting.

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Jihad Abaza is a journalist and photographer based in Cairo. Personal website: